Though Martinez is used to working on bigger projects, he stuck with RetarDEAD — dreaming up such elaborate moments as a Day of the Dead–inspired man-ripped-in-half sequence — because, as he says, "In a way, I'm a coconspirator now." He also appreciates the directors' sheer enthusiasm and appreciation. After a killer take, they were "literally high-fiving me. Most low-budget filmmakers are so egocentric they would rarely do anything like that. Good effects are important, but they're not the only things that are important."
Dawn of RetarDEAD
Though a third movie in the Popko-West canon is already in the planning stages (Satanists!), it's looking like several months before RetarDEAD — still being edited from 30-plus hours of raw footage — has its world premiere.
"We only get one to two nights a week to do this," Popko explains. Making movies for a living is the ultimate dream, but for now, both men view their films as being in the tradition of early John Waters: made outside the system and laden with as much bad taste as they please. Potential distributors have already advised the pair to adjust RetarDEAD's divisive title, a notion they considered "for about five minutes," according to West.
Popko and West's films may be throwbacks to the drive-in era, but their outlook on the movie biz is actually quite forward-looking. Popko — "the carnival barker" to West's "guy behind the curtain pulling levers and switching things," according to Burr — anticipates a day when tangling with queasy distributors won't even be necessary, because many films will simply be released directly over the Internet. Both directors are also very interested in high-definition technology; they plan to upgrade from their old DV camera to a new HD model for their next effort, for reasons beyond a desire for better visual quality.
"What HD has done is bring grind house back," West says. "Now you can make stuff on a level that can compete, aesthetically, with what Hollywood's doing — almost. As far as your talent, you'll be able to compete realistically with other movies. Now people can make good horror movies on their own terms."
"If you really want to make a movie, you can," Popko notes, stressing the importance of production values. Though the cutthroat nature of the indie film world is always on their minds, they welcome the new wave of B-movies that HD may herald.
"Now, there aren't movies like Shriek of the Mutilated that were done in the 1970s, which could compete [with Hollywood]. These movies can now come back into the fold as long as they're shot on HD — and there will be a shit fest like none other," West predicts, adding that he's looking forward to the deluge. "The world's a better place with shitty movies in it." SFBG
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